Another nursing home death in Manitoba; top doc warns people to follow rules

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government reported another COVID-19 death at a nursing home Thursday and the province's top doctor threatened to start issuing fines to people who don't follow orders to self-isolate.

A resident in her 90s at the Bethesda Place nursing home in Steinbach died in hospital, following the death of another woman in her 90s at the facility earlier this week. An outbreak had earlier been declared at the facility, where seven residents and staff have tested positive.

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"There were three residents who were identified as cases, and these two deaths are a part of that," said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer.

A staff member at another nursing home — Rideau Park Personal Care Home in Brandon — has also tested positive, so new rules and visitor restrictions are also being implemented there, Roussin said.

The government tallied 22 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, but removed one case reported Aug. 15, for a total 1,064. That includes 14 deaths.

Many of the recent cases have occurred in western Manitoba, and Roussin singled out the area when he said some people have not been heeding public health orders.

"What concerned us in the Prairie Mountain health region — especially in the Brandon region — was the amount of large gatherings that we linked cases to, and then reports of large gatherings that had people who should have been self-isolating in attendance."

The apparent rule-breaking has prompted the government to issue a new public health order that will make it easier to fine people $486 per day if they fail to self-isolate for 14 days after testing positive for COVID-19, or after having been exposed to COVID-19 by a close contact.

There are exceptions to the order for some groups of people — including health-care workers.

The province already has the power to penalize such rule-breakers, but it is a lengthy process that requires health officials to first issue offenders individual communicable disease orders and then detain them. Under the new order, offenders can be issued fines immediately.

Manitoba had flattened the COVID-19 curve in the early summer and had, at one point, only one active case. But the situation changed quickly and on Thursday, the active case count stood at 407.

Roussin has repeatedly said the province may strengthen its messaging on wearing masks, which are currently mandatory in public places only in the Prairie Mountain health region. Many private businesses also require customers to wear masks.

Roussin said the government may move to make masks mandatory in the rest of the province on public transit.

"It's something that we're looking at."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2020

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said there were 21 new COVID-19 cases.

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